Krysta Palmer fulfills a long-time dream later this month when she competes for a berth on the U.S. Summer Olympics team.
There have been a couple of twists along the way, however, due to injuries that sidetracked her visions of competing as an Olympic athlete ... first in gymnastics then on a trampoline. Instead, the local product is headed to the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials on June 18-26 in Indianapolis.
Palmer, a recent University of Nevada graduate from Carrson City, reached a national level in a short period of time after she only took up the sport as a freshman at Nevada. In just four years, she has achieved All-America status and twice been honored as Mountain West Diver of the Year for the Wolf Pack. And now she has qualified for the Olympic Trials in the following events:
■ Women’s synchronized 10-meter, prelims and semifinals on June 18, followed by the finals on June 22.
■ Women’s 10-meter platform prelims and semifinals on June 20, followed by the finals on June 25.
In recent memory, Corey Fox of Carson High (and LSU All-American) is the only other local diver to qualify for the Olympic Trials.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to go and try to do my very best,” she said. “I’m definitely nervous. There’s a lot of emotion that goes with it, but it’s really an incredible experience and I’m enjoying the journey.”
Palmer has indeed experienced quite a journey.
Just consider at age 10, she participated in the Talent Opportunity Program and in July 2002 was invited to Bela Karolyi’s USA National Gymnastics Training Camp in Houston. In 2003, Palmer was named to the U.S. Gymnastics TOPs team, only to see her gymnastics hopes end due to a knee injury.
“I had one injury in gymnastics, it was my left knee and I ended up tearing my patella tendon off my kneecap when I was 12,” she recalled.
In 2004, Palmer made the transition to trampoline and emerged as an 11-12-year-old age group national champion. A year later, she was selected to the National Jump Start Team for trampoline and tumbling and in April 2006, at age 13, Palmer soared to eighth-place at the Flanders Cup in Ghent, Belgium.
Palmer continued her ascent through 2009, when at age 17, she won a gold medal at the national trampoline championships and was selected to compete at the World Age Group Games in St. Petersburg, Russia.
But Palmer’s hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Trials were ended by another knee injury that resulted in two surgeries. Despite those setbacks, Palmer described it all as a learning experience.
“All the rehab and everything you put into getting better, it’s definitely a journey. But it’s a good journey,” she said. “You learn from every injury you have, and honestly, I would not be in diving if I didn’t go through those injuries.”
Even though her competitive fire continued to burn, the question after high school was where to turn. She moved on to Western Nevada College in Carson City, and then that door of opportunity opened up for diving.
“I have a good friend in Gardnerville; We were playing around on the diving board, just having fun, and he said, ‘You should go up to Reno and see what the college program has to offer.’” Palmer recalled. “I got very lucky to come onto the college team.”
IMPACT FOR WOLF PACK
Palmer joined Nevada’s team midway through the 2012-13 season and qualified to compete at the Mountain West Championships.
She returned as a sophomore to take second-place on the platform and third on the one-meter and three-meter springboards.
She explained the difference with diving was it lessened impact for the knees.
“It’s a lot less pressure on the lower body, so it definitely helped out,” she said.
As a junior in 2015, Palmer was honored as Mountain West Diver of the Year after sweeping all three events at the conference championships in San Antonio.
Her career with the Wolf Pack culminated in March with a ninth-place finish on the one-meter board and 10th on the platform at the NCAA Championships in Atlanta. She also won the platform championship at the zone regionals in Flagstaff, Ariz., and the platform title at the conference meet to help Nevada secure its first Mountain West team title.
Palmer followed her success at the NCAA national finals with yet another new experience in April when she competed at the USA Diving Synchronized National Championships in San Antonio, Texas. Even though it was just her first time competing on the synchronized platform dive, Palmer won the women’s 10-meter title paired with Tarrin Gilliland (Liberty Hill, Texas) and was also the runner-up with Katrina Young (Shoreline, Wash.).
She qualified for the Olympic Trials with both partners. Give credit to Nevada coach Jian Li You, who in March was recognized as Diving Coach of the Year by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America.
“I really have to give credit to my coach because she’s been able to translate my sport from trampoline to diving. Her experience and background are just incredible,” Palmer said. “I would say gymnastics gave me the strength that I needed and trampoline gave me the beauty of the sport. Each sport is really special to me and I’m just happy to be in a new one.”
While speaking about her many athletic achievements, Palmer took a moment to reflect on yet another milestone in her life.
She was two days away from her graduation from the University of Nevada.
“I just finished my last final,” she said. “I’m definitely happy to be completing my bachelor’s degree. It’s definitely something, alongside of diving, that you really put focus into.”
That she majored in kinesiology should come as no big surprise.
“Every class I’ve had is really different, I love it,” Palmer said, adding with a laugh, “Kinesiology … it’s more specialized to how the body moves and I’ve really enjoyed specializing in that. I’m very into the body.”
Nevada Athletic Director Doug Knuth spoke of Palmer Tuesday during the weekly Rotary Club of Minden luncheon at the Carson Valley Inn.
“What’s neat about her, she’s an incredible athlete, she’s a better person,” Knuth said. “She’s great academically, does a ton of community service and the cool part about Krysta Palmer, she tells me this story about how she rides a hotrod motorcycle to campus everyday. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ She’s all of this tall (5-foot-6) and she drives this rocket.”
Remember, she competes on a platform that towers 30-plus feet above the water.
“I was always climbing trees as a kid,” Palmer said, laughing. “I love adrenaline. You know, I just like to enjoy life. That’s the thing that I strive to do because if you’re not enjoying what you are doing, then why do it? So, I’ve just been enjoying every experience I can.”
What are her future plans?
“I want to keep training,” Palmer said. “That’s definitely my focus right now. And even after 2016, I want to continue until I feel that I’m at my potential. It’s all about the journey and it’s worth every training day, every hard practice. I love it.”